Reports that troubled Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton might be traded to the Texas Rangers dominated the chatter before the game between the teams Friday night. When asked about the reports from media outlets that the move could happen in the next few days, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he has had no discussions that Hamilton's status had changed. He said Tuesday that the left fielder was expected to be evaluated at the Angels complex this week when he was expected to report for extended spring training. Also, an arbitrator has ruled that Hamilton cannot be disciplined under Major League Baseball's drug agreement for his self-reported relapse into alcohol and cocaine use.
Four members of the Royals and three from the White Sox were punished for their roles in a series-opening brawl and six of the players drew suspensions. Major League Baseball placed the blame for the fighting squarely on both teams. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was handed a seven-game suspension, fellow starter Edinson Volquez given five games and outfielder Lorenzo Cain and reliever Kelvin Herrera got two games apiece. White Sox pitchers Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija were suspended five games each, while catcher Tyler Flowers escaped suspension but joined the others in getting an undisclosed fine.
James Harden deferred to Dwight Howard and his role players when Houston swept two games at home to open a first-round series against Dallas. The MVP candidate took over in the game that put the Rockets on the verge of Harden's first postseason series victory with Howard in their second season together - even interrupting his big man on a question about the best rebounding game of the center's playoff career. Harden scored a playoff career-high 42 points, Howard had his postseason best with 26 rebounds and the Rockets beat the Mavericks 130-128 on Friday night for a 3-0 lead in their first-round series. I was OK with that,'' Howard said, although he did have seven of his 13 points to help Houston hold on in the fourth quarter.
The New York Rangers aren't accustomed to this. Now, after four straight 2-1 victories - the clincher in Game 5 Friday night against Pittsburgh on Carl Hagelin's overtime goal - they actually get some time to, as coach Alain Vigneault put it, ''heal some bumps and bruises.'' New York will face the winner of the Capitals-Islanders series, which Washington led 3-2 heading into Saturday's game at Nassau Coliseum. Rather than look ahead to a potential next opponent, the Rangers looked forward to some rest. ''We will take the next couple of days here to recuperate and recover and we'll get right back to strategizing for the next series and getting ready.'' One of the injuries came in the first period to forward Mats Zuccarello.
After hitting a 3-pointer to double the Washington Wizards' lead with 16.3 seconds left, Paul Pierce turned to the stands with arms aloft, nodded and yelled, ''That's why I'm here!'' Yes, the Wizards wanted the 37-year-old Pierce for his leadership and his past postseason success. John Wall drew choruses of ''M-V-P!'' from the crowd by producing 19 points and 15 assists, but it was Pierce who hit two key 3s late as part of an 18-point performance, and the Wizards closed in on a first-round playoff sweep by beating the Toronto Raptors 106-99 on Friday night. ''You're not playing against chopped liver,'' Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Kawhi Leonard has a passion for playing defense, but the San Antonio Spurs forward does not want to be regarded a one-dimensional player. So, a day after earning NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors, Leonard's offensive outburst helped San Antonio break the Los Angeles Clippers' ''spirit'' in a blowout victory. Leonard had a postseason career-high 32 points and the Spurs never trailed in dominating the Clippers 100-73 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series. ''He continues to impress me every time he's out there,'' San Antonio veteran Tim Duncan said.
On a night that felt more like October than late April, Michael Pineda gave the Yankees an impressive performance in a matchup all of New York could get behind in the World Series. Pineda consistently threw deceptive strikes into the eighth inning, Mark Teixeira had a pair of two-run homers and the Yankees ended the crosstown rival Mets' 11-game winning streak with a 6-1 victory Friday night in the Subway Series opener. ''He's dominant,'' Yankees catcher Brian McCann said of the powerful right-hander. Jacoby Ellsbury also connected off Jacob deGrom (2-2) for a third home run to the short right field in the Bronx as the Yankees ended a four-game home skid to the Mets.
Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson brushed off a stick battle with Montreal forward Brandon Prust as easily as turned back the Canadiens on Friday night. It's just a battle of emotions there,'' Anderson said. I got a little stickwork, but no harm, no foul.'' Anderson made 45 saves and Ottawa avoided elimination with a 5-1 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first-round series. Game 6 is Sunday night in Ottawa.